Audi Dome, Munich - There's not many times a team gets another chance, in the same exact situation, and get to actually change a defeat that should have been a victory. The New England Patriots had the exact situation play out in Super Bowl 46, but could not overcome fate and their loss to the New York Giants from four years ago.
Back on January 4th, FC Bayern Basketball came back against ratiopharm ulm, took the lead with seconds left, only to lose on a freak last second shot. And the exact same situation played out last night as Ulm took a double-digit lead, FCB battled back, and another exciting finish was on display for Beko BBL fans.
This time, Je'Kel Foster exploded for 19 of his game-high 22 points in the 4th quarter, including two key free throws with :05 seconds left as Bayern came back and beat Ulm 87-83 in front of a soldout Audi Dome.
Munich jumped out to an early lead, thanks to an 11-0 run, but Ulm returned with a run of their own and the opening quarter finished at 16-14 for FCB. The early strategy for Bayern was to get the ball into Jared Homan to take advantage of his quickness over Ulm's John Bryant. Homan started off dominating the matchup, scoring 7 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, blocking a shot, and getting the league's All Star Day MVP in early foul trouble.
"I feel like I have a quickness advantage (against Bryant) on the pick-and-roll and the post," said Homan who finished with 21 points. "It just happened that my teammates found me and my shots were falling."
Homan continued his strong play before the half but the Ulmer's offense woke up, outscoring FCB 28-18 and built a game-high 12 point lead with a balanced inside-outside attack. Bryant was able to stay in the game and neutralize Homan in the paint. And that helped give the visitors' sharpshooters open looks. Isaiah Swann hit a couple of treys and added a high-flying dunk. The fans for Ulm enjoyed a 42-34 lead at the break.
"In the second quarter, it didn't look all that good," admitted Bayern head coach Dirk Bauermann. "It was important that we went into halftime with a rather small deficit and have an opportunity to regroup."
The game went into another gear in the third quarter, as both teams traded a flurry of baskets. Bayern creeped back to tie the game at 55 a piece with 2:25 left. Ulm kept their composure and built back a lead, heading into the decisive final period up by six.
FCB got a shot in the arm from substitute Jan Jagla at the opening of the 4th. His five points and defensive play kept his team close and set up Foster Time.
Over the next five minutes, Je'Kel was balLIN (reference to Foster's Twitter handle @jekel_isballin and current sports/basketball/social media sensation Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks). He scored Bayern's next 13 points, including three consecutive three-pointers to give the Reds their first lead since early in the 2nd quarter at 72-70.
"It started off after when Jared got me a wide-open shot in the corner and knocked the 3 down," ex-Ohio State Buckeye Foster explained his hot hand. "And that's what I needed. I built my confidence on that shot."
In the first meeting, ratiopharm ulm also held a lead going into the 4th. And there were four ties and four lead changes, including the final shot from Keaton Nankivil to win the game, 76-75. Last night, there were only two ties, but five lead changes. Homan's bucket with 1:58 left gave Bayern the lead for good, and Jonathan Wallace's shot 40 seconds later gave the home team a lead that they would hold till the end.
The action did not stop, however. Foster was not done with key plays. He and Swann traded buckets and the score stood at 82-81. Bastian Doreth's inbound pass found Foster unguarded underneath the hoop for a lay-in, 84-81. After Per Günther's free-throws brought the score back to 84-83, Foster calmly nailed two free throws to keep the visitors at bay.
There would be no miracle shot from Ulm this time, FCB smartly fouled to put the equally hot Swann on the line. The former Florida State Seminole missed his two shots from the charity stripe. Chevon Troutman hit one of two from the line for the final score.
"We got to play defense in the 4th quarter, that's money time," said Swann who finished with a team high 17 points. "We just didn't show up at the end. We got complacent that we were scoring and got satisfied. Against a team like Bayern, it's a fight for the whole 40 minutes."
Bauermann agreed with Swann. "With the quality that we have, we knew we were going to beat them. You have to congratulate the players for how hard they played."
The loss for Ulm drops their record to 17-5 but they remain second in the Beko BBL standings. Bayern's win brings their record at home to 11-1, overall to 12-10 and currently 7th in the league. The top 8 teams will make it into the playoffs and right now, half the teams are from Bavaria.
"My impression is Bavarian basketball is pretty strong," assessed Ulm head coach Thorsten Leibenath. "You can sense a lot of pride in what (Ulm, Bamberg, Würzburg, and Munich) are doing. That competitiveness only makes everybody better."
And if the playoffs started today, ratiopharm ulm and Bayern Basketball will match up in the first round. If the first two games were any indication, we should expect five more exciting, fight-to-the-finish games.
But if Bauermann's team want to make it, they will need a few more road wins. After their disappointing 2-point loss versus in Trier last weekend, where they were outscored in the 4th, they will look to improve their 1-9 road record at the FRAPORT SKYLINERS.
Bayern beat Frankfurt by the slimmest of margins back on November 20, 2011, coming back to win 58-57. Foster was once again key in that game before his injury, hitting a three-pointer to break a tie late in the game.
"Hopefully on Saturday, we can try to get a road win. We are going to build from this win and go from there," said Foster.
Tip-off on Saturday is at 20:05 CET from FRAPORT-Arena.